2010 FW Awards: Contractor of the Year finalist – Adam Metcalfe

It’s difficult not to be bowled over by the enthusiasm Adam Metcalfe has for keeping everything precise, and how good he is at it.

When Mr Metcalfe left school in 1996 at 16, he already knew that he wanted his future to be in farming, despite his father trying to discourage him because of the poor returns. It all started with 16ha (40 acres) and some hand-reared calves. At 18, and while he was still at Askham Bryan College, he recognised there was a demand for crop spraying and decided to buy an Agri-Buggy 2D and that’s where AWSM Farms all started.

Having grown the contracting business to include the application of both liquid and solid fertilisers as well as lime spreading, the business also handles in the region of 15,000 bales a year.

Spraying is now done with a Bateman RB35 and waste handling has also become a big part of the company’s remit, having secured a contract to spread sewerage sludge from Northumbrian Water as well as a Solway contract covering from Morpeth to Thirsk. Digestate from nearby AD plants is also managed by Mr Metcalfe and his team as well as conventional slurry from nearby pig and dairy farms.

Last year, AWSM invested in a Terragator for slurry injection and in the first year it injected over 70,000t. This has proved so successful that another two Terragators are now on order, both with full GPS and mapping systems.

AWSM now employs 12 full-time staff, and a further 10 seasonal staff in busy periods. Training is particularly important to Mr Metcalfe, who himself is undergoing Basis accreditation. “It’s essential to our customers that we have a handle on everything we are doing to the finest detail.”

Each member of staff has their own machine for which they are responsible, and for many jobs Mr Metcalf tries to keep the teams the same so customers get a consistent level of service. “This not improves the quality of the job but also gives each operator a level of responsibility.

“All inputs are applied using variable rate technology and GPS mapping, coupled to being linked via Gatekeeper software and autosteer,” he explains. “This is important so as to not waste any inputs. All muck is applied with spreaders that are equipped with on-board weighers and we also use N-Sensors to keep things accurate.”

To say Mr Metcalfe is cost-focused is an understatement. He employs an independent consultant who keeps an eye on actuals to budget figures and has designed a sophisticated online software package that monitors all jobs and invoices everything immediately. “This has revolutionised how we run our business and keeps everyone in the loop.” For each job there’s a job sheet and when it’s been completed the employee contacts the office to say it’s been completed. Each customer then has their own file showing all the jobs that have been done in the past, allowing the operator to know exactly what’s been done over the year and in previous years, too.

With fuel costs so crucial in any business, Mr Metcalfe has identified how savings can be made here, too. “Each tractor has an electronic fuel fob which drivers have to insert everytime they refill a tractor, meaning we know exactly how much is being used.”

Trackers are used on nearly every machine so as to identify where things could be done differently to save time.

Health and safety is of paramount importance at AWSM Farms, and an independent consultant comes in regularly to identify where improvements can be made.

A commitment to providing first-class service
Emphasis on accuracy
Excellent handle on costs
Impressive and well-thought out costing program

Stubble-to-stubble contracting
Combining, baling and spraying
Slurry injection
Liquid and slurry waste spreading
Waste management

• For more on the 2010 Farmers Weekly Awards
• For more on the the 2010 finalists

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